Billy Beck has written an outstanding post on a topic that I’ve shied away from, simply because its implications are so large, and I hardly feel up to the task of folding them all out and making beautiful origami from them.

Anyhow, Billy points out that values are radically individual in their genesis, and that, consequently, the “common good” so revered by Platonists and their dupes, is a sham.

The Myth of Progress

I watched The Pianist last night, and it put me in a particular misanthropic mood I recognize. I last experienced it years ago as I read through the comments book at the end of my last visit to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

The comments in the book, reading between the lines, added up to this: “Boy that sure was moving! The Germans were some mean, evil dudes, huh? It’s great to be an American, because we’ve got museums that’ll keep this Jew-killing stuff from ever happening here!”

What hubris! Of course it can happen here. Men are made of the same stuff in the 21st century they were made of in the 20th. Under the right circumstances, given the right push, they’ll do anything to anybody. The push doesn’t even have to be that hard.

Of course, it won’t be Jews next time. Nonetheless, on a crowded street, or in the lobby of a Holocaust museum, look around you. Ask yourself: how many of these people would gas me for the glory of der Fürher?

Answer: too damn many.

If the average man is made in God’s image, then a man such as Beethoven or Aristotle is plainly superior to God, and so God may be jealous of him, and eager to see his superiority perish with his bodily frame. All animal breeders know how difficult it is to maintain a fine strain. The universe seems to be in a conspiracy to encourage the endless reproduction of peasants and Socialists, but a subtle and mysterious opposition stands eternally against the reproduction of philosophers.

H.L. Mencken [In Defense of Women]

From the Daily Quotation Server.